Caleb Williams

MAPLETON — A sand tunnel collapse at the Little Sahara Recreation Area west of Nephi resulted in the death of a 12-year-old Wellington boy Friday evening.

Caleb Williams, of Wellington, Carbon County, went with a Mapleton Boy Scout troop to the popular camping area Friday for a weekend outing, said Juab County Sheriff Alden Orme.

After dinner, the boys were playing in the dunes while the leaders cleaned up. Orme said the Scouts were tunneling horizontally into one of the dunes in wet sand.

Williams was inside the tunnel when it collapsed, Orme said. Some of the Scouts started digging, while others went to get the group's leaders.

Williams was a friend of one of the Scouts, but he wasn't a member of the troop, said Randy Rymer, one of the leaders of the Mapleton LDS 7th Ward Boy Scouts.

Orme said there is virtually no cell-phone service in the area, so an adult from the group drove to the visitors center, about three miles from where the group was camping, to call for help.

Williams was buried about 6 feet under the sand for 30 to 45 minutes before being uncovered.

Orme said both a helicopter and a West Juab ambulance were dispatched to the scene, but the boy died before medical aid arrived.

The troop left the recreation area following the accident, and the boys went home to their families, Rymer said. Troop leaders have contacted LDS Social Services, and counseling will be made available to the boys, he said.

Williams, who had just started seventh grade, was an accomplished wrestler. He was named 2008 Youth Wrestler of the Year by UtahWrestling.org as a sixth-grader at Wellington Elementary School.

During the 2007-08 season, he compiled a 152-12 record, winning four state championships and five national titles, according to a press release. Throughout his youth-wrestling career, he won 17 state championships, 32 national titles and 42 All-American finishes.

The boy's death becomes the third youth fatality in the past few years caused by a sand-tunnel collapse at Little Sahara, Orme said. The moist sand changes completely as it dries out, he said, and what may appear to be stable at one moment can change dramatically.

Orme said the 60,000-acre park goes to great lengths to warn visitors of the dangers of tunneling, and the area's Web site contains the missive that "children should be supervised at all times to ensure their safety."

The Little Sahara Recreation Area gets more than 200,000 visitors each year and is very popular with campers and ATV enthusiasts.

From 2002 to 2007, the area recorded 919 accidents and 13 fatalities. Most of the fatalities occurred in ATV-related accidents, though five were not.

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